WASHINGTON, June 26 (UPI) -- A second IRS employee invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination Wednesday in an appearance before the U.S. House oversight committee.
Gregory Roseman, who was a deputy director of acquisitions at the Internal Revenue Service, invoked his right when Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., began to question him about panel findings that he helped a friend procure IRS contracts potentially worth $500 million.
Issa: "Before I continue, and because this committee is acutely aware that one or more on the panel may choose to assert their Fifth Amendment rights, and because this chair does not want to have anyone waive that right accidentally, involuntarily, or in any other way, does anyone here at this time intend to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights?
Roseman: "Yes, sir, I do intend to waive my -- I intend to invoke Fifth Amendment right to be silent."
"Mr. Chairman, on the advice and counsel, I respectfully decline to answer any questions, invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege to remain silent," Roseman said when asked to whom he reported.
The committee Tuesday released a report alleging Roseman's "cozy relationship" with Strong Castle Inc. President Braulio Castillo helped the company secure contracts worth a possible $500 million.
In May, Lois Lerner, who led the IRS division on tax-exempt organizations before she was placed on administrative leave, invoked her right to remain silent during a hearing on the agency's scandal last month.
When Issa asked Roseman when he became aware of a company called Strong Castle Inc., Roseman, who since has been removed from his position, again invoked his Fifth Amendment right.
In his opening statement, Issa said: "Our investigation is still in its infancy. Today, we are working with the I.G. [inspector general] and hope to work with others within the IRS to end this problem."
Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland said the evidence obtained by the committee "indicates at least an appearance of impropriety, because Mr. Roseman did not disclose this relationship or recuse himself from the contracting process."
The IRS, already embroiled in a scandal over disclosures it wrongly targeted conservative groups applying for a tax exemption, awarded the contracts to Strong Castle Inc., an information technology firm in Leesburg, Va., because of the relationship between Roseman and Castillo, the panel's report said.
Castillo bought the business with his wife in January 2012, and within six months Strong Castle had upwards of a half-billion dollars in IRS contracts, the committee report said.
Before Castillo took over the company, it had no federal contracts, the report said.
But Roseman told Castillo on Dec. 31, 2011, shortly before he bought the business, the company would be "Fortune 500 in no time," the report said.
"By inappropriately using a personal relationship and abusing a provision designed to help disadvantaged businesses, the IRS and Strong Castle have made a mockery of fair and open competition for government contracts," Issa said in a statement.
Castillo had denied the friendship in an interview with CNS News in February but later told congressional investigators he and Roseman were friends.
The House Oversight report also asked why Castillo received a special designation as a "service-disabled veteran-owned small business" 27 years after being injured in military prep school.
"He was able to get this designation despite the fact that he never actively served as a member of the armed services, he played college football after the injury and 27 years went by before he sought the designation as a disabled veteran," the report said.
"Castillo sought the disabled-veteran designation only months before he purchased the company," the report added.